Tag Archives: Camellia sasanqua Elfin Rose

Suddenly it is winter

The first blast of winter arrived yesterday. Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ in the foreground.

Fallen leaves and a leaden sky

While our climate is generally benign, the first serious winter chill arrived, appropriately enough, on the first calendar day of winter in New Zealand – June 1. The winter fronts come straight up from the Antarctic. Our mellow, extended autumn with calm, sunny weather and temperatures sitting around 18 or 19 degrees Celsius disappeared overnight.

This too will pass. Generally the worst of our winter weather hits after the winter solstice – June 22nd to be precise – and today, June 2, has dawned fine and sunny, albeit with a chilly temperature. Mark is taking heed of this sudden drop. Today’s task, he declared, is to cover the bananas. You can see the semi-permanent bamboo frame in the photo. He needs the extension ladder these days to get the windbreak sheltering cover in place for the bananas have grown to a substantial size. At least we get a crop from them these days but we wouldn’t if he didn’t spend a day shrouding them for winter. That is as far as battening down the hatches goes here. We don’t wrap anything else up for winter.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Elfin Rose’

with Nerine bowdenii at its feet

Winter it may now be, but this does not mean bare branches bereft of leaves and an absence of flowers. The sasanqua camellias are at their peak, many of the species camellias are opening along with the first flowers on the early japonicas and hybrids. ‘Elfin Rose’ has been a particular delight this week, with the colour-toned Nerine bowdenii below. We cloud prune ‘Elfin Rose’ into stacked layers, both to restrict its growth and to make it a feature shape all year round. This annual clipping takes place as it makes its new growth after flowering – so some time between mid winter and mid spring. Clipping later would remove next season’s flower buds and we want both the form and the flowers.

It is perhaps a good indication of our generally mild conditions that vireya rhododendrons also feature large in late autumn and early winter. These are, of course, frost tender. Many are very frost tender – especially the big, scented cultivars with heavy, felted foliage. The one above, where we have a bank of maybe five of them beneath the mandarin tree, is ‘Jiminy Cricket’. It was bred by the late Os Blumhardt and is a full sister seedling to the more widely marketed ‘Saxon Glow’ and ‘Saxon Blush’ (not marketed by us). In our opinion, it is also superior to those two but all of them show more hardiness than most vireyas on account of having the relatively hardy species R. saxifragoides as one breeder parent

Vireya rhododendron ‘Sweet Vanilla’ with ‘Golden Charm’ in the background

We place the more tender vireyas with greater care, on the margins where they get plenty of light but adjacent overhead cover will give them protection from most frost damage. This is one of Mark’s breeding  which we released as “Sweet Vanilla”. Big flowers and exotic fragrance to delight, even on the coldest days. We have no idea if it is still in production and commercially available – it is not a plant we kept under our management with intellectual property rights so anybody can produce it if they wish – but I hope it is because it has stood the test of time as a garden plant.

Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’

Also hitting its stride is Mark’s Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’, aka Mark’s Retirement Fund. It was opening its first flowers at the end of March but they were just a teaser. As we enter winter, it will bloom through until early spring and bring us scented pleasure all that time. It is not big and showy like most of his deciduous magnolias, but it is a cracker of a plant in the smaller world of daphnes.

A seedling clematis at our entrance way having a late season revival this week

While we are not expecting the full onslaught of winter until June 22 – give or take a few warning episodes prior to that – by late July, the first of the magnolias will be opening along with the snowdrops. Temperatures will start to rise in August. Our winters are not as long and bleak as experienced in many other places but human nature being what it is, we probably moan just as much about the cold and winter storms.


In the Garden – May 10, 2012

A fortnightly series first published in the Weekend Gardener and reproduced here with their permission.

Sasanqua camellias do not have to be white - pink Elfin Rose

Sasanqua camellias do not have to be white – pink Elfin Rose

We are grateful that we live in such a mild climate where we don’t have to put our garden to bed for winter. Instead we can have plants flowering all year round and continue active gardening, even in the coldest months. At this time, the autumn flowering sasanqua camellias are in full flight. One of my particular favourites is pretty “Elfin Rose”. Too often, people get hooked on white sasanquas but strawberry pink is very cheering on a grey day. “Elfin Rose” also has a long flowering season and wonderful forest green, fine foliage. By contrast, our “Mine No Yuki” looks magnificent for a week, or until we get some heavy rain which turns the pristine white blooms to a disappointing brown mush.

We have vireyas in flower all the time. If you have plenty, there are always some blooming because these rhododendrons don’t have a set flowering season. However, they don’t tolerate more than a degree or two of frost, so you need protected sites. We also have bromeliads in bloom looking wonderfully exotic while the late autumn bulbs continue to delight. Somewhat to our surprise, the first snowdrops appeared in mid April. Maybe our disappointing summer means winter will bypass us this year? The impatiens, which are fully perennial in our woodland area, will continue in flower until the worst of the winter chill cuts them back. While we wouldn’t mind being a degree or two warmer overall, it seems churlish to complain about the colder seasons here.

Bromeliad in flower now

Bromeliad in flower now

Top tasks:
1) The winter and spring bulbs are well on the move and many are through the ground. We need to ensure that they don’t get completely smothered by a build up of autumn leaves and to keep an eye out for marauding slugs and snails.
2) Sadly, it is time to put the outdoor furniture away for the season. It lasts a lot longer if we don’t leave out to the elements when we are not using it.
3) Continue the autumn clean up round on scruffy perennials. We make hot compost so we can put seeding plants through the compost heap but it is not to be recommended if your compost never gets hot enough to kill the seeds and any mildew or blight.